DCNS adds OpenHydro to offshore plans

French naval giant DCNS has taken a controlling stake in Irish tidal-power technology outfit OpenHydro, as the next step in an expansion into ocean energy that will include development of floating wind farms.

DCNS is spending some €130m ($172.7m) increasing its current 11% holding in OpenHydro to 59.7% following last year’s trials of its 16-metre-diameter ring-shaped turbine off the coast of Brittany, western France.

The company is targeting annual revenue from the tidal power sector of €1bn by 2025.

DCNS chief executive Patrick Boissier says the company is “on track” with its wider ambition of doubling its overall revenue by the end of the decade from 2009 levels of €2.4bn through a portfolio of developments in offshore wind, wave, tidal and ocean thermal-energy conversion.

It is cooperating with compatriot wind turbine maker Vergnet on a 1MW floating design based on a semisubmersible platform it hopes to develop into a 5MW version for a five-unit pilot wind farm by 2018.

Tests of the prototype, which will feature Vergnet’s two-bladed rotor, are slated for a site off the coast of Brittany in 2014. “There is a huge potential for floating wind [turbines] as you can take advantage of stronger winds further offshore,” says Boissier.

“The oceans will play an increasing role in the planet’s future so we are defining ourselves as inventing high-tech solutions to sensibly secure undeveloped sea [power] potential,” he adds. “Tidal power is a market equivalent to some 60 nuclear reactors.”

“DCNS and OpenHydro are quite different companies but teaming up we will cross-fertilise. OpenHydro is a specialist in the generation of electricity, development of sites and installation at sea of turbines; to this, DCNS will bring competences in the marine environment, in contracting complex systems and industrial processes.”

“We want to preserve [OpenHydro] start-up culture but we want to add our networks and abilities to sustain long-term projects.”

OpenHydro is currently partnering on projects in Canada, the US, Ireland, Scotland and France with a total potential capacity of over 1GW, including SSE Renewables’ 200MW Cantick Head development planned for Scotland’s Pentland Firth.

“This represents only a small percentage of the overall market available,” notes OpenHydro chief executive James Ives.

DCNS and OpenHydro have been working on a pilot development of four 2MW turbines for French utility EDF as part of the €40m Paimpol-Bréhat project, located in 35 metres of water off the island of Bréhatas.

DCNS announced last March that it planned to set up an industrial facility in the Port of Cherbourg in France, for the serial-manufacture of full-scale tidal power turbines, with expectations the base will be fabricating some 100 machines a year by 2018.

“For each zone where there will be tidal energy developments we will have to create an industrial base to assemble the turbine and later repair and maintain them,” adds Boissier.

DCNS is also involved with development of the WaveRoller and Carnegie Energy wave devices.